I’ve never been much of a Metallica fan but for a few exceptions here and there. (ONE remains one of the single best anti-war songs of the last century.) That said, their continued devotion to Whiskey in the Jar is as good as it gets. They inject the centuries-old Irish folk ballad with some high-energy metal mayhem and in doing so connect the long-ago tale to a new generation of fans.
The song has its origins in the 1750s, born of the ongoing struggle for Irish independence and that later became popular in the American Appalachians likely due to the many Irish immigrants who settled there. It has since been referenced and interpreted multiple times over, from the author James Joyce to the folk group, The Dubliners, to perhaps most famously by the Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy. Where the Lizzy version is drenched in melodic melancholy, Metallica’s charges forth like a hard punch to the nose.
Here they are playing Whiskey in the Jar to a delighted and raucous crowd of thousands at Ireland’s Slane Castle. On a related note, it’s likely not a week goes by I don’t sing this to my dog Dublin while taking a break from writing. Her tail stub wag suggests she approves.
CRANK. IT. UP.
And here is the equally good (many say better) version by Thin Lizzy:
And speaking of Slane Castle, it was U2 who are likely most responsible for making it a must-perform venue for entertainers all over the world. Here they are singing of the terrible tragedy that was the 1972 killing of 14 Irish Catholics by British military soldiers in what was one of the darkest days in the modern era of the Irish Troubles, Sunday Bloody Sunday:
And it was U2 who in turn inspired the equally good and similarly themed Zombie by the gone-much-too-soon, Dolores O’Riordan, and the Cranberries:
It’s part of a long history made up of shared threads of experience and historical connection that further inspire yet more interpretations such as can be found in the very entertaining yet bittersweet new show, Derry Girls: